Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formally rolled out her budget proposal this week for the coming fiscal year. The discretionary spending budget totals $33.3 billion, including more money for public safety, housing and education.
The Democratic governor was in Detroit on Thursday to help drum up support for her budget priorities, which include attracting employers looking for skilled, educated workers, more affordable housing, universal pre-K for 4-year-olds and free two years of community college.
Whitmer spoke about her education proposals at Detroit Parent Network, a resource center for adults and children in the city’s New Center area. She said she’s hoping the legislature can at least take care of the education part of the budget quickly.
“We got a lot of work to do, we’re up to the task and we’re gonna get it done.”
— Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
“I know as schools make their budgets, as daycare providers make their budgets, the earlier we can get it done and get them notice the better for our ability to meet the needs of Michiganders,” she said. “So we got a lot of work to do, we’re up to the task and we’re gonna get it done.”
Whitmer also said tax rebate checks will be mailed out to eligible low-income families starting next week.
The $33.3 billion is her proposal for spending from the General Fund and the School Aid Fund. The governor and the Legislature have wide latitude to determine how to spend those on schools, colleges and universities, health services, environmental protection and law enforcement. The budget proposal includes money to recruit and train more state and local first responders, as well as to fund intervention services intended to reduce gun violence.
When other revenue statutorily committed to things like roads and state payments to local governments is rolled in, the total budget adds up to $80.7 billion.
Budget negotiations in the legislature are starting with the state house deadlocked – as Democrats await two April special elections they hope will again give them a majority. The deadline for the full budget is Oct. 1, but lawmakers have instituted a goal of July 1 for the education budget so schools know how much money they have to spend.
Whitmer says she’s not concerned about getting the budget done on time.
“This was my sixth budget,” she said. “Every budget has been bipartisan and balanced, regardless of whether the Republicans were in control in my first term or the Democrats now, that will continue to be the case.”
Still, it will take some Republican support to get it all done before the state’s new fiscal year begins.
“She’s mortgaging Michigan’s future to roll out irresponsible programs that we simply can’t sustain.”
— State Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Adams Township)
“There’s certainly a lot of spending there and things we should be very careful on, but also, it’s not all bad,” said Sen. John DaMoose (R-Harbor Springs), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “There’s a lot of things it seems the governor has taken into account. There’s some things that are really important to our district. Like housing is a big deal. We all want good education.”
Other Republicans were not so generous.
“She’s mortgaging Michigan’s future to roll out irresponsible programs that we simply can’t sustain,” said Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Adams Township).
Budget bills sponsored by Democratic lawmakers representing the governor’s plans will be formally introduced soon for the legislature to consider. Republicans may offer their own bills, as well. They are obligated under the Michigan Constitution to adopt a balanced budget before the beginning of the new fiscal year.